The story of the Manchester music scene over the past 25 years is told in a
cheeky style with Tony Wilson (Coogan) walking us through the story with
equal parts comedy, drama and music.
TV journalist/music impresario Wilson
was the driving force behind the Manchester music scene of the '70s and
'80s, which gave the world the likes of Joy Division (later New Order) and
the Happy Mondays. The film follows Wilson and his Factory Records gang
through these tumultuous years of musical discovery, partying at the
Hacienda, sex, drugs, debauchery, etc.
Coogan's sheer personality and humour keep us involved in the film, which
suffers from the usual Winterbottom/Boyce problems--the narrative and
characters are jumbled and hard to follow without prior knowledge about the
time, place and people. Even so, it's fascinating to watch these characters
spiral out of control, all the while maintaining a sort of naive artistic
integrity. The period is wonderfully recreated, and Coogan continually lifts
us out of the "action" with post-modern asides that are both hilarious and
telling. He also knows how to find a tiny detail--twitch, pause, arched
eyebrow--to say much more than any amount of dialog would.
And the surrounding cast are also excellent, with some rather
eerie look-alikes in higher profile roles. This is a rare
mock-doc that actually tries a discinctly new approach ...
and it works, even if the drama never really grabs hold. And
while the whole thing seems a bit too self-important and self-aware,
it's still energetic, funny, surprisingly informative and
rather insightful in its examination of an important place